God works in mysterious ways. Unimaginable and unpredicted ways. When I experience it I am always taken aback.
I no longer believe in coincidences. I believe God is always in the background working to change my heart and actions and working in other people's lives to change theirs.
Right now I recognize that God is transforming my thinking and my heart and at the very same time I am so upset by the actions of some "Christians" I know. I see everything going on simultaneously and the applicability for me. I am at a crossroads. Am I going to yield to the Potter's hand?
I'm having a huge spiritual experience right now and I'm not through it yet. So writing this might be very premature.
I've read the Bible; I've been doing Bible studies for years. I know what God's Word says. Here is where I am stumbling - putting my faith into practice.
I have a broken relationship in my life. I have prayed for this person and for our relationship for years. Recently I realized that more often then not, my prayers aren't 'change my heart, but change their heart.' First screw up on my part.
I came to this realization because the perfect storm of the Almighty working on me is suddenly diverging upon me.
Last year my Bible study group did Jen Wilkin's Sermon on the Mount Bible study. It was probably one of the best, if not the best Bible study I have done. Solid teaching and insights.
In that study we see how Jesus takes the Law and goes much deeper. "You have heard that,... but I say to you..." A huge part of the Sermon on the Mount is about our relationships with others. Not only did I have many "aha" moments walking through the study, I often now think about what I learned in it. It impacted me. It chipped away at a part of my heart which is still hard in places.
Fast forward to now and my Bible study group is doing a really good study called Faith Lessons on the Promised Land - Crossroads of the World by Focus on the Family and Ray Vander Laan. This is a very old study (1999) I have wanted to do for years. God prompted me now was the time.
We aren't too far into the study and already we are learning so much and it is leading to some really thought-provoking faith lessons. The very first two weeks one of the things we learned about was what standing stones are and how that relates to being Christ's witnesses.
We learned about how the Promised Land is at the crossroads of the world (on the Via Maris trade route) and the Israelites were to exert influence on the nations around them. "Through their righteous living, the Hebrews were to reveal the one true God, Yahweh, to the world." (page 8) We know they failed in many ways at doing that. "Our mission, as Christians today, is the same one He gave to the Israelites. We are to live obediently within the world so that through us the world may know that our God is the one true God." (page 9)
As part of this study we learned about God's Plan for His People.
"You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"
Isaiah 43:10-13 NASB
Read 1 Kings 8: 56-61, but I want to note verses 58 and 60.
that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances,... so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no one else.
Read 1 Peter 2:4-12.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(verse 4,5 NASB)
Wow! We had just learned about what standing stones are and we read we are "living stones."
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
(verse 9 NASB)
Why are we "living stones"? To proclaim the excellencies of Him.
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
(verse 12 NASB)
As people we come into contact with observe us and see our good deeds, they will glorify God.
Do you see all that? We are to be His witnesses. His living stones building up His kingdom here on earth. We are to tell others about what Jesus has done for us. We are to show them with our actions.
Simultaneously as I'm studying this I get a Christian book and letter from the person I have the broken relationship with. This person read the book and it moved them to write me a letter. This person asked me to forgive them for things they have been holding against me. But then they listed some of what they held against me. My first reaction was to want to tick off a list of how this person had hurt me. Sadly, not very Christian-like on my part. So before I replied I needed to step back, and pray about it.
Christians are told to forgive.
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."
(Matthew 6:14,15 - Sermon on the Mount)
That night I lay in bed praying about my heart. 'Lord, please help me show You to this person.' And Jesus very clearly said to me, 'Do you want to be right or do you want to be My witness?' Look this doesn't happen too often that God speaks directly and clearly to me. So when it does, I sit up and take notice. I laid there and prayed some more and I wondered why He used the word "right." Was I trying to be "right" in this relationship? How was I trying to be right?
The next day I began to read the book this person had sent me, Weatherproof Your Home ... Against the Storms of Life by Donna Best (affiliate link.) What I have read so far is solid. (I'm always a bit skeptical as to what passes off as Christian these days.)
I was still pondering why Jesus used the word "right." Of course I wanted to be His witness! Or did I really?
The next day (two days after Jesus asked me that question) I come to chapter 4 of the book and it says:
If you are convinced you are right, will you change your mind? No, why would you? ... Sin warps our perception of reality, and I'm speaking of both our own sins and the sins committed against us. ... The truth is: Our need to be right is destroying our relationships and our very lives. I call it being "dead right." We bring death to our relationships. ... What relationships have you destroyed because being right seemed more important than your relationship with the other person? (pages 52, 53)
Whoa!!!!! Mind blown. There was that word "right!" God was very clearly speaking to me through this book. And how the person who sent me this book came about getting it and reading it is nothing short of miraculous.
Simultaneously this whole ugly Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford event occurred. (Please do not comment about who you think is right or wrong on this matter. I don't care what you think about that.) I hear people at work and elsewhere talking about it and the hateful things they are saying. I read the blasting posts on social media. And it is awful.
I am shocked at how people are acting. Some are nominal Christians and by that I mean they are more Christian by heritage than real belief. I sort of excuse them for being ignorant of God's Word. But some of the hateful social media posts are by Christians I have been to church with, have been in Bible studies week after week, year after year with, one who worked at a church for years and one who spoke at a Christian event. I am mortified and angry at them. Is that how they are being Christ's witnesses? They have walked with Christ for quite awhile. Did they not learn anything about how He wants us to interact with others? Do they not get how they are harming God's kingdom? Where is their love they are to show?
'AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Mark 12:30,31 NASB)
I know these Christians posting ugly things on social media are quite familiar with James 3:5-12. They are using their tongues as a weapon and setting the forest on fire. They know better.
Are they really Christian?
This morning I was so angry at them for not showing the love of Christ to others. They are so concerned with their opinion being "right" and totally ignoring being His witness. When they die will it matter the outcome of this Kavanaugh/ Ford thing or is something else way more important, like how they treated others? Life is too short for this. Are they influencing the world for His kingdom? They have zero influence or say in the outcome of the Kavanaugh/ Ford thing. However, they do have a choice how they impact their friends, family and co-workers. They are choosing to break relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ who see things differently than they do and choosing to turn off those without a relationship with Jesus. Who wants a relationship with Him if you turn into the kind of person that is hateful and lacking compassion? They are giving Christians a bad name and it pisses me off.
So this was my thinking this morning: anger at these people who say they are Christian who are acting very un-Christian-like. Then I read a tweet by Jen Wilkin quoting 1 Samuel 12:23:
"...as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you..." - the words of Samuel to wayward Israel.
I need this example and reminder. Intercession is an act of obedience and a testimony of hope.
And instantly I am convicted. I sit here in tears as I write this. Am I not acting as judge on the authenticity of my friends' Christian faith? I am not praying for these friends that God will soften their hearts and reel in their tongues. Instead I am angry because they aren't acting "Christian." But am I? I am not any better by not forgiving and making amends in my own broken relationship. I have this desire to be right; to be heard - just as they do and yet I know I am to show His love. My actions are at odds with God's Word. My disobedience is behind closed doors. Theirs is posted on social media for their friends to witness. I judge them by the yardstick I don't want to be measured by.
Kind of ironic that chapter 7 of the Sermon on the Mount is about Judging Others. I guess I didn't quite take that part to heart.
'Do you want to be right or do you want to be My witness?'
A very good question.
And God is waiting for my answer on whether I am going to choose to be His living stone.